In the 85 year history of the NFL draft, thousands of college players have had their name called to take that next step in their football careers.
Jay Berwanger, a Heisman Trophy winner, became the first player ever selected in the NFL draft in 1936. Berwanger was the number one draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles and never played a down for the Eagles, thus becoming the first draft bust in the history of the NFL.
One of the more famous names picks of the 1936 draft was the selection of William Shakespeare with the third pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers out of Norte Dame.
In the late ’30s, professional football was not the lucrative career that it is today. Shakespeare opted to pursue a banking career instead of a pro football career and never played a down of football after his final college season in 1935.
Everyone has their lists of the top ‘busts” of all time. But after hours and hours of research, I have come up with my list of the top 10 draft busts of all time.
10. Dwayne Haskins, Quarterback, Washington Redskins
Haskins competed with Kyle Allen for the starting quarterback job in the summer of 2020. Coach Ron Rivera said in training camp that he expected Haskins would be the starter, but there would be competition.
Haskins would crash and burn quickly. He completed 61 percent of his passes, passing for 1,439 yards, five touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Haskins had a 2-6 record as a starter before Alex Smith took over the starting quarterback duties in mid-October.
9. Jamarcus Russell, Quarterback, Oakland Raiders
Russell was the first pick in the 2007 draft and was the big man on campus at LSU. Russell came to the Raiders with high expectations. He held out his rookie season and didn’t play till the second game of the season.
Russell signed a six-year 68 million dollar contract and was out of the NFL by 2009. He passed for 4.083 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions. Russell had a problem hanging on to the football as he fumbled 25 times, losing 15.
He continued to regress during his time in Oakland and was permanently benched on November 15, 2009. Laziness and a massive weight gain forced Russell out of the league.
The Raiders passed up Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis, Marshawn Lynch, and Darrelle Revis to draft Russell.
8. Art Schlichter, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
Art Schlichter had a gambling problem. A serious problem. It was so severe that he is still serving time for his gambling woes in prison.
Schlichter was the number four overall pick in the first round by the Colts in 1982. He was awful as an NFL quarterback completing a dismal 42 percent of his passes.
He was suspended for the 1983 season. Schlichter was 0-6 in his NFL career as a starter. The Colts took another quarterback in the 1983 draft, John Elway from Stanford, who refused to play for the Colts.
7. Lawrence Phillips, Running Back, St. Louis Rams
Phillips was the sixth overall selection in the 1996 draft by the St. Louis Rams. Phillips played his college ball at Nebraska, where it seemed he was always in trouble off the field.
That was his undoing in the NFL. What he did off- the field overshadowed what he did on the field.
Phillips rushed for 1265 yards and 12 touchdowns with the Rams in two seasons. During these two seasons, the Rams had enough off-the-field shenanigans from Phillips promptly trading him to Miami.
In less than two years with the Rams, Phillips spent 23 days in jail. In his tenth and final game with the Rams, Phillips collapsed on the field during warm-ups, only to find heavy alcohol on his breath. Phillips was also known to stay out till four AM the night before games.
The Rams traded Jerome Bettis to make room for Phillips and bypassed Eddie George to draft Phillips.
6. Maurice Clarett, Running Back, Denver Broncos
Although Clarett was a third-round pick, this was a guy who had all the potential in the world and never took advantage of that potential. Clarett was kicked off the Ohio State football team, and would not play organized ball for two years before getting drafted by Denver.
Clarett was a third-round pick of the Denver Broncos in the 2005 draft and never felt that he had to work for anything. He showed up at training camp at 248 pounds, and it was all downhill from there. He thought he should have been handed the Broncos starting running back job-based on his reputation alone.
Clarett was lazy, a poor practice player, and had a terrible attitude with his teammates and coaches. He would bring his water bottle to practice with alcohol in the bottle instead of water.
Clarett was cut one month after signing his contract, and no team expressed an interest in bringing him on board.
5. Bo Jackson, Running Back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bo Jackson was a hell of a player till the injuries derailed his career. So why does Jackson make this list?
Jackson visited the Buccaneers facility right before the 1986 draft, a violation of NCAA rules causing Jackson to miss his final college baseball season. He told the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that he wouldn’t sign with them, and the Bucs drafted him anyway.
The Bucs offered Jackson a $7.6 million five-year contract, and Jackson opted to play baseball and signed with the Kansas City Royals.
The Bucs forfeited his rights, and he reinterred the draft in 1987. The Los Angeles Raiders picked Jackson in the seventh round.
4. Robert Gallery, Offensive Linemen, Oakland Raiders
Gallery was the second overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Oakland Raiders and was talked about as a can’t miss prospect who could be an anchor on the offensive line for years.
He started 15 games for the Raiders in 2004, giving up three sacks. He started all 16 games in 2005, giving up 3.5 sacks.
The Raiders moved him to left tackle for the 2006 season, where he gave up 10.5 sacks, despite missing three games.
Gallery signed a three-year deal with the Seahawks in 2011, and was out of football the next season.
The Raiders could have selected Larry Fitzgerald, Philip Rivers, Sean Taylor, and Ben Roethlisberger but chose Gallery instead.
3. Akili Smith, Quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals
Smith was the third overall pick of the Bengals in the 1999 draft. He started 17 games in his career and was horrific. A 3-14 record as a starter with 5 TD passes and 13 interceptions.
The following players were drafted after Smith. Edgerrin James, Ricky Williams, Torry Holt, and Champ Bailey. Any one of those players would have changed the fortunes of the Bengals.
The drafting of Smith and poor drafting overall helped the Bengals continue their decade of losing.
2. Ryan Leaf, Quarterback, San Diego Chargers
Leaf was the second overall pick of the 1998 draft behind Peyton Manning.
Leaf, a finalist for the Heisman Trophy out of Washington State, crashed and burned upon his arrival in the NFL.
In 18 starts for the Chargers, Leaf went 4-14 with a 48.4 rating. Leaf’s inability to solve defenses in the NFL, and his immaturity, along with a poor work ethic, set the Chargers back years when they drafted Leaf.
He related poorly to his teammates and the media, and blamed them for his poor play.
1. Tony Mandarich, Offensive Linemen, Green Bay Packers
Mandarich was the second overall pick of the Green Bay Packers in the 1989 draft out of Michigan State. Mandarich had great athleticism and size for his position. No one had ever seen an offensive lineman with the physical tools that Mandarich had.
Underneath that outward show was a steroid-fueled body. The steroid use was his downfall as he was released after four seasons with the Packers.
Mandarich also had substance abuse issues which only compounded the steroid problem. He is the only top-five pick from the 1989 season, not in the Hall of Fame.